The Curse Of Mediocre Performance
August 30, 2016
Mediocre performance is a virus. Once an individual becomes infected, it spreads quickly and with vigor into their psyche. If an individual becomes infected, mediocrity can start to spread to others, and before long it's bringing everyone down, crippling your team's chances of peak performance.
Most teams are mediocre. They just aren't that good. They are average. Nothing special. They may do lots of the right things, but they don't excel at anything. Mediocre performance is settling. It's accepting that what you're doing is good enough. This under-performance is easy to spot. A lack of urgency, dwindling perseverance, low creativity and constructive conflict are all signs. Mediocrity has a feeling about it; the feeling of just doing enough, but not an ounce more. When a team settles for mediocre performance, you're in trouble. BIG trouble. You become vulnerable to your competitors; you're easy prey. When mediocrity sets in it's a sign you're on course for a devastating defeat. That defeat may not be tomorrow, but it is inevitable at some point. Mediocre teams don't survive in the long run.
How you choose to handle the onset of mediocre is of vital importance to the future health of your team. First you - as the leader - should ask yourself if you are part of the problem. Have you lowered your standards? Are you more tolerant of people not meeting your expectations than you used to be? Are you setting the right example? Is it clear your passion and drive has dropped? If you are allowing average performance from the team, then you must first work on yourself. A leader is a mirror to the team. The way you choose to behave and approach tasks is mirrored back to your team. The team will follow the leader's example: "If that's how the leader behaves then it must be ok for me to do the same!" You can't possibly expect to raise the standards for others if you first don't hold yourself accountable to the same standards. Most mediocre performance is most often a direct result of the leader's performance. Ouch! That's a hard leadership pill for most of us to swallow. But it tends to be true. You are likely to have played a part in the performance slump your team is in.
Most team's become mediocre when a leader allows just one individual to slip under the team's agreed standards. The minute a team member stops performing at the required level, other teammates start to notice. Subpar performance isn't exclusive to achievement of targets and goals. but it also applies to attitudes and behaviors. Once the team sees someone not making the grade they start to observe. They closely monitor the situation. They are waiting to see when the leader will step in and what action they will take. When a leader isn't seen to be addressing a team member's obvious underperformance, the rest of the team take that as a signal that the underperformance is acceptable. They begin - most often subconsciously - to match the under performer. After all, your team is only as good as its weakest member. How quickly and forcefully a leader steps in is a reflection of the leaders tolerance for poor performance. Fail to get involved quickly and you're to blame for the mediocrity spreading. Equally, if you fail to hold the under-performer accountable to the corrective actions that were set, then you're to blame for the mediocrity. As a leader it is your job to create an environment for continual growth, and thus keeping mediocre performance at bay should be high on your list of priorities.
As a leader, if you are striving to achieve your maximum potential day after day and are confident that you are not part of the problem, then you can start working with your team to ensure they are reaching their fullest potential. There are 3 questions that you should ask your team when you feel the onset of mediocre performance:
- Do you think you can perform better? Would you like to be better? If they say "yes," then it is your job to help them. If they say "no," then you can't help them. People have to be willing to want to improve their contributions in order to keep mediocrity away. If someone answers 'no,' it's time to remove them from the team. They will start to hold you back.
- What more can you do to maximize your performance? Often people want to be better but they aren't sure how. It is your job to help them see the possibilities. Collaborate with them to identify what else they could be doing to better themselves and the team. Most people don't recognize what more they have to contribute and as a leader you hold the key to unlocking their potential. Coach them. Everyone on the team should be working toward more than they are doing today.
- How can I help you succeed? People need to know you are invested in their success. That is an important motivator. When you have ascertained that someone is open to growth, and has ideas on how to realize that growth, it's essential you offer your support to help them achieve. It's also important that you are there to hold them accountable to the personal goals they have set themselves.
Mediocre performance sets in when we accept the status quo. When we keep doing what we have always done. When we stop pushing ourselves to move forward. If every individual - including the leader - is committed to both personal and professional growth, then the team has growth in its DNA. It's the leader's responsibility to set the standards and then to keep raising the bar. The leader should encourage others to reach for more. To want to be better. To help them find ways to be better. Every individual on the team should be committed to being better. They should seek to find ways to improve their skills, competencies and behaviors. Everyone on the team should be committed to growing the team. A growth mindset that is prevalent in every individual keeps a team from settling; it keeps a team from being mediocre.
If you and your team can't articulate clearly what you are working on in order to be better, then the curse of mediocre performance is setting in. Just the belief and the willingness to strive for more is all it takes to keep performances away from being average. As a leader, you need to set the standard, model ideal behavior and partner with your team to ensure they are developing each day both personally and professionally. Equally, it's important to remove anyone who isn't focused on growing themselves. As a teammate you need to hold yourself accountable to the standards set, and be simultaneously working on your personal development. If you aren't moving forward then you are heading backward.
A team committed to growth will always avoid the curse of mediocre performance!